From: Dace (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Fri 01 Nov 2002 - 07:13:41 GMT
> From: Bill Spight <email@example.com>
> Dear Ted,
> > > So your claim is that memes are alive, right?
> > The basic idea of memetics is that memes play the same role in human
> > evolution that genes play in natural evolution. Memes provide the
> > particulate aspect of human culture and consciousness, just as genes are
> > the "particles" of species and organism. The particles of *living*
> > are necessarily alive, just as the particles of inanimate matter,
> > and quarks, are not.
> I can't tell from your reply whether you are claiming that memes are
> alive, which you seemed to be doing earlier. Is that your claim? Thanks.
I get the sense you're not comprehending much of what I'm saying. Memes,
like genes, are "necessarily alive."
> > > > > Do the genes for blood type replicate themselves? If so, how?
> > > >
> > > > All genes replicate themselves in the process of cell division.
> > >
> > > How do the genes for blood type affect cell division?
> > It's not that every gene individually replicates itself but that the
> > material, taken as a whole, replicates itself via the production of the
> > appropriate enzymes.
> So you agree that each gene is not a self-replicator per se.
Genes replicate collectively. The point is that some are individually more
useful than others, and a person with a gene that "encodes" a quality
harmful to the great cause of reproduction is less likely to pass on any
genes, including that one. Genes are the fundamental units of evolution and
development. Their capacity for self-replication means, over time, that
some are pruned in favor of those that determine for beneficial phenotypic
You seem to find amusing the idea that genes and memes could be alive and
self-existent. Has it occurred to you that your heart is alive? And your
blood vessels and muscle cells and the tissues they comprise? That you
yourself are among the living? Genes are trivially alive, in the sense of
participating in the life of cells and organisms, but more importantly they
in their perpetuation of the useful characteristics associated with them.
This is how Dawkins understood "selfish" in regard to the gene and its
cultural analog, the meme. So, too, memes are trivially alive in their
participation in mental life but more to the point in their propagation of
the cultural characteristics associated with them.
Even if Dawkins is wrong about DNA as the central actor-- as the only truly
living (self-replicating) thing in the body-- that doesn't mean it's not
still self-replicating. We simply find it at the base of a hierarchy of
self-perpetuating life-forms, including organisms and species. Move the
analogy from Dawkins, the reductionist, to Gould, the (late) multi-levelist,
and "memes" are at the base of a hierarchy that includes minds and cultures.
But drop the analogy altogether and it's not memetics.
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